The Dark Ages

We are in the midst of our first power outage since moving to the country, and I learned something important today: it takes just one hour without power to plunge my family into the chaos of a primitive existence. Here’s how it went down:

We’re all readers, so as soon as the power dropped, our first instinct was to grab books and settle onto the couch to read. But we couldn’t get comfy because the recliners are electric and so we had to sit with our feet stiffly below our legs, like cavemen. Eve and I spread out a comforter and stacked some pillows on the living room floor to make a Turkish style lounge, but I was quickly reminded that I’m too old and fat to be lounging on the hard ground. We whined that the natural light coming in through the windows wasn’t really enough to read by. Isn’t it noon?! Shouldn’t there be more light in here? People who live completely off the grid must have tons of windows, I’ve decided.


flashight reading
Breakfast at Tiffany’s by flashlight . . . headache included for no extra charge


Then there was the matter of bathroom business. Try as we might, we couldn’t save our one free flush for very long. We get our water from a well, which is operated by an electric pump. So no electricity = no water. You can flush each toilet once because it still has water in it from before the power went out, but that’s it. So you can’t flush. And how do you wash your hands when you’re done going to the bathroom and not flushing? These are problems.

I thought about dinner, how would I cook? I couldn’t. But forget dinner, what about lunch? We hadn’t eaten yet when we lost power. Instead of the sriracha quesadillas we were looking forward to chowing (“sriracha anything” is our current favorite meal), we scuffled through the pantry like hungry rats, picking out whatever bits of ready-to-eat food we could find. Stale crackers and chicken in a can would have to do. One of us reached for a mug and that’s when all hell broke loose–oh my god, the coffee maker’s electric!! The humanity!


flashlight checkers
Checkers by flashlight


Tears flowed, tempers flared, and each of us wore a permanent look of wide-eyed panic. Every twenty minutes, I would walk by the thermostat and toll out its diminishing number: 65! 64! How cold would it be at midnight? I wondered. The first night, it got down to 59, the second night it hit 45. By the third day, we were looking at outside temperatures of 9 degrees, and I didn’t want to guess how cold it would get in the house. Even when we were snuggled deep in a burrow of several blankets, our noses were frosty. We had finally decided to abandon ship and stay somewhere else for the night when the power–miraculously, mercifully–came back on. I could have kissed the linemen, the thermostat, and the kitchen faucet.

“I’ll never take water and heat for granted again,” I proclaimed, Scarlett-style.

“I’m sure you will,” Eve deadpanned.

She’s probably right. But a couple months have passed since I started writing this during the power outage (<– easily distracted), and at least five times since then I have settled into my bed at night and reminded myself to be grateful for the warm blankets, for our clean clothes, and for the fact that I can get up and take a shower in the morning without first having to boil a pot of water on our outdoor stove. [By the way, I never did that. The boiling of the water at the crack of dawn out on the freezing back deck was all Michael, because he has been Husband of the Year for 12 years running, and I’m grateful for that, too.]

2 thoughts on “The Dark Ages

  1. Loved your story and it reminded me of our first month in Paradise. Biggest snow storm of the century, buildings collapsed, roads blocked, trees down, power lines down. Our wonderful log home was all electric. But the pioneer woman in me kicked in. We had an awesome Shraeder Woodstove(a BIG one). I made coffee, the aroma was magical and the taste delectable. Then I discovered I could cook on that wonderful stove. I made a stew, a pot of beans(took a couple days for them to cook), hot cereals, heated sauces, boiled spaghetti, scrambled eggs, cooked bacon. We ate well we had hot water to pour in the sinks for quickie baths. Fortunately the wood shed was full, the fire went day and night for 4 days. When the power came back on, I was a little disappointed, but my pioneer woman was ready to give into the modern day woman with all the amenities.


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